The Devil at My Heels

Landscape plein air painting near Point Buchon and Diablo Canyon on the San Luis Obispo county coast of California

Artwork Notes:

The devil that was at my heels this day, wasn’t really a devil at all. But he worked for one, or at least a nuclear power plant that has taken the devil for its name. I’d hiked 3 or 4 miles out on this windy day to see the furthest reach of this coast that I could legally access. It’s not exactly public land, but is open during limited hours for public use with strict regulations about staying on the trail. These situations can make my work difficult. The best views are often a bit off the beaten path. I’d have to settle for a trailside setup today and was fortunate to find a spot that featured both an excellent elevated view of the furthest southern portion of this trail’s coastline, AND a nice windblock from the hill behind it. Painting here was a no brainer. 

Did I mention the wind? Sometimes I wonder what I’m thinking when tromping off into a howling wind like this. But then I remember that it’s like this all the time on the coast and when travelling you can’t exactly pick the calm and fair weather days in advance. This is what I came for. 

After completing this, I hiked the rest of the allowable distance on the trail to its end, always followed by a white truck. I’d walk around a bend, and he’d pull up to a lookout on the road above the trail. Everywhere I went. For the next hour and a half. There were points where the road was right beside the trail, but he’d never stop there to chat. He’d go on a head to another lookout and wait for me to pass. His watchful eyes and lack of interaction had me wanting to mess with him and wait for him to go just out of view, then turnaround and backtrack and wait for him to follow, then do it again and again until he gave up or finally approached me. 

But I was tired (my outdoor studio travels well, but it’s not the lightest pack in the world), and if I hurried at a good clip I’d have time to paint another little painting before being locked behind the closed gate. I’d already scoped a perfect patch of poppies over a beach with a flowing creek, so there would be no fun and games today, just a mad hike into the howling wind with the devil at my heels. 

-Matt Beard




Artwork Information:


Artwork Title: "The Devil at My Heels"
Original Size: 16" x 12"
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Year Painted: 2019

Additional Artwork Information:


Method: Plein Air
Date Painted: 07/15/2019
Region: The California Coast > Central California > San Luis Obispo
Road Trip: SLO 2019

Artwork Logistics:


Travel Logistics: Had to Sleep in My Van
Miles Hiked: 6-10 Miles
Access Logitics: Private Property, Sneaky Public Access Easement, Run ins with the Authorities
(Painted With Permission)
Botanical Hazards: Some Poison Oak Observed
Biological Hazards: High Grass- Tick Country!, Close Encounters with Running Cows
Weather Logistics: Painted in Heavy Winds, Painted in Stupid Strong Wind that I had No Business Trying to Paint In, Painted in Full Sun with no Shade
Temperature: Cooking Hot


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